I dropped into the headquarters of the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance (BACA) in Bristol. The organization has as its mission “To tell the story of the musical and cultural heritage of the region, its role in the birth and development of country music, and its influence on music around the world.” Plans are underway to renovate an old building into a Cultural Heritage Center with exhbits and performing space.
I caught up with Bill Hartley, Executive Director of the BACA, who told me about the success of the Alliance’s website, which streams over 13,000 songs by artists, both historic and contemporary, representing Old-Time, Bluegrass, Gospel, Country, Blues, Americana, and other important musical avenues that have been influenced by this region, its artists, and its living musical heritage.
“In 2006,” says Bill, “We had over 1.4 million unique visitors to our website. The music we stream is either from this region or it was influenced by this region. While people have heard of the Carter Family or Alison Krauss, we have local artists that few people have had a chance to hear.
“People all over the world listen to this music,” he continues. “A lot of our listeners are ‘cubies’–people who work in a place with a high speed Internet connection.”
Bill reports that the BACA will embark on a capital campaign to fund the building renovation. In the meantime, the Alliance is celebrating the 80th anniversary of the 1927 Bristol recording sessions, now sometimes referred to as “the Big Bang of country music.”
He closed our conversation by saying “The music that made Bristol famous is alive and being played all over our region. We encourage people to come hear this music in the place where it came from.”